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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Republicans Gain An Expanded Majority On Salt Lake County Council. But What Does It Mean For Policy?

A photo of the Salt Lake County Government Center with a 'Vote Early" poster in front of it.
Chelsea Naughton
The Salt Lake County Government Center, where Republicans hold a 6-3 lead on the county council.

Republicans now hold a 6-3 majority on the Salt Lake County Council after Laurie Stringham unseated Democratic incumbent Councilmember-at-Large Shireen Ghorbhani.

Republican Councilmember Aimee Winder Newton said the county council is not an overly partisan body, and her party’s growing majority won’t change that. But she said the two parties do differ more when it comes to finances.

“We have more fiscal conservatives on the council and that means a greater eye on accountability and budgets,” Winder Newton said. “I think there may be an appetite for looking at how we do budgeting a little bit differently and putting more time into that and more scrutiny.”

She said she expects a respectful relationship between the council and Democratic Mayor Jenny Wilson to continue, but there could be more intense scrutiny of her policy proposals.

Wilson said in a statement she doesn’t expect her relationship with the council to change.

“For a decade now, a Republican controlled county council has worked with Democratic mayors to maintain our AAA bond rating, to open new, sustainable facilities, and to grow Salt Lake County’s economy and opportunity,” Wilson’s statement read. “I don’t anticipate the next council to operate in a way that would derail the progress we have made together.”

According to University of Utah Political Science Professor Matthew Burbank, Winder Newton and Wilson are right. The county council, he said, takes a problem solving approach rather than a partisan approach, which makes the party affiliation of its members less relevant than in Congress or the State Legislature.

“A lot will depend upon the personalities of those people involved, since we're not talking about hundreds of members of the Legislature,” Burbank said. “This is a smaller group and so the personalities matter more.”

But, he said, the larger Republican majority may feel more emboldened to challenge some of Mayor Wilson’s proposals, particularly when it comes to taxes.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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